Jaguar XK8 Convertible Driven

Jaguar XK8 Convertible

As prices for the still relatively new Jaguar XK8 Convertible begin to drop below those of the best original chrome bumper MGBs is it time to invest in one of Jaguar guru Ian Callum’s first forays into big cat design? We explore Malham Cove high up in the Yorkshire Dales driving Classic Car North’s mint 17,000 mile example to find out what a late 90s 290bhp Jaguar 4.0litre V8 powered roadster is all about.

Interesting isn’t it how things change when for years MGBs appeared to be the default choice as entry into classic car ownership with the best examples rarely tipping the £5K mark. Affordable fun in a neat open top package, it was once a struggle to find a more appropriate starting point. Time moves on, British Heritage body shells ensure standards are kept high and these days £5K only buys you a mid-range convertible with decent cars fetching nearly double that. Check out our Price Guide to find out more.

It can of course be argued that the true successor to the MGB is the Mazda MX5 which does now occupy a price bracket once dominated by the Morris Garage’s car. Worth still noting though that at the time of writing £7,400 of your English pounds would buy a tidy and original 80,000 mile Jaguar XK8 Convertible. Fittingly if you want an MGB-GT equivalent Coupe then prices are similarly lowered which makes the Jaguar XK affordable for most purses in one shape or the other.

Jaguar XK8 Convertible
XK8 is affordable now and potentially a future classic (Note: Malham Cove behind)

The question is will the Jaguar XK8 Convertible ever be considered in the same light as Abingdon’s lithe little legend? Quickly followed by a second question does it particularly matter when you consider the amount of car you get for relatively modest outlay? Who knows what the future of cars is these days, classic or otherwise and so is it perhaps time to broaden our horizons on what a classic should be and could the Jaguar XK8 Convertible indeed have a role to play in that. Most people these days are looking for a weekend car and not necessarily a classic car after all.

Whatever you’re looking for the Jaguar XK8 Convertible can in no way be considered small and whilst accepting beauty is in the eye of the beholder can also leave mixed feelings by looking stunning from some angles, particularly when viewed low down from the front, and slightly awkward from others. The large almost bulbous boot appears a bit too big for these eyes when viewed from the side for instance.

Jaguar XK8 Convertible
Undoubtedly attractive from the front, XK8 can seem slightly awkward from some angles

On a positive note that same storage space does provide a useful area for two golf club bags or for those of us who don’t spoil our walks, enough gear for a weekend away. Better still the one press fully automatic electric roof is not dependent on this area at all meaning it can be brimmed without any concerns over leaving enough space for the retracting lid when the sun comes out. A common problem and almost irony today with modern convertibles is quite often the roof has to stay up because the boot is simply too full of daily domestic debris to allow it to retract.

Sit inside up front and the sumptuous leather interior of our car is a lovely place to be. Even the Ford sourced central console that appeared to dominate the inside of the XKR Coupe we drove disappears completely out of sight once you are installed in the Jaguar XK8 Convertible with the roof down. If I was being picky I might poke fun at the faux wood dashboard but it would be making a tedious point completely out of context with the rest of the car which oozes quality and luxury. Clue number one and perhaps why you might well be in the market to buy one of these cars; comfortable, spacious and easy to get in.

Jaguar XK8 Convertible
Nicely appointed leather interior looks good whilst (Ford) controls work well

Turn the key and you get the first introduction to Jaguar’s superb quad-cam V8 engine. True the Daimler badged MK2 was the first to use a V8 but that engine came with the name and so I think this is still a first for Jaguar. As you’d expect the noise is purposeful and at the same time subtle in its tones. The J-Gate box that it is attached to is also a pleasure offering normal auto modes down the right hand side and manually locked ratios over on the left. As someone who prefers a manual I could certainly live with this method of changing gear in our Jaguar XK8 Convertible. It was in fact the only option when the car was new and fits very well with how the car drives on the road today.

This leads onto the main reason you should rent or buy a Jaguar XK8 Convertible which is to enjoy its outstanding cruising capability. The clues are all there from the plush leather interior, auto-box and larger proportions, just think of it as having a tinge of silver hair and bit of middle aged spread. This is after all not a car to blast down the B-Roads of Britain or anywhere else for that matter, I’m not even sure it would fit down some. Instead the Jaguar XK8 Convertible is suited to high speed cruising on larger and straighter stretches of tarmac interspersed with fast flowing curves. This car can also cover some serious distances with ease and get you to your destination with energy to spare.

Jaguar XK8 Convertible
Super smooth Jaguar 4.0litre Quad-Cam V8 produces useful 290bhp

If you do ever feel the need to remind anyone of the 290bhp available on tap then you can simply floor it on the exit of a dual carriageway roundabout and watch in your mirror as lesser machines disappear back out of sight behind you. The power is definitely there but not demanding to be exploited all of the time, this is after all a very British V8 built within Ford’s Bridgend factory complex at a time when Jaguar, Ford and Aston Martin were all intertwined. No bad thing really when you consider Ian Callum was responsible for the Ford Puma, Escort Cosworth, this Jaguar XK, equivalent Aston Martin DB7 and latterly Jaguar F-Type. I would say someone with a very good pedigree, wouldn’t you?

Also not particularly demanding is that J-Gate gearbox where even on the XKR Coupe we drove I soon tired of manually changing gear on the left hand side preferring full the auto-mode instead with the Sport button pressed for some extra bite. Remove the supercharger and the roof and I don’t even feel inclined to press the button marked with an S and simply leave the car in Drive to let it do its thing. It is absolutely fine and if I had any grievance on the road it can only be from the slightly artificial feeling steering that seems to vibrate in your hand over bumpy sections like its missing some rubber somewhere. It’s an odd experience and was exactly the same in the XKR Coupe.

Large boot not compromised by folding roof which tucks down in front
Large boot not compromised by folding roof which tucks down in front

On the economy front things are by no means a complete disaster, adopt a laid back driving style and although not measured accurately mid-twenties look to be easily achievable, possibly more if settling into a longer run on open roads.  This is in contrast to the XKR which of course drank like a fish probably from regular rousing of the supercharger just to listen to its Banshee like war cry again and again. No in this normally aspirated Jaguar XK8 Convertible you just select D and drive whilst taking some pleasure in the fact that the fuel gauge is not rapidly heading south every time you peer down at it.

Jaguar XK8 Convertible
Perhaps best regarded as a 2 rather than 2+2

The Jaguar XK8 Convertible demonstrates what Jaguar does best with excellent pace and grace and it has to be said more than enough space for two adults on a weekend break.

How does this car make you feel?

In one word: Relaxed

As a favourite meal: Eggs Benedict with crispy pancetta over toasted white bread.

Anything Else: Jaguar XK8 Convertible is the ideal companion to tour around in leaving you relaxed whilst at the same time never wanting when it’s time to get a shift on.

Key Ingredients: Spacious open top tourer with subtle but still potent when required Jaguar Quad Cam V8 power delivered through a silky smooth J-Gate auto-box. Electric roof couldn’t be easier to use being fully automatic from one single press of a button and better still it doesn’t encroach on the ample boot space.


With thanks to The Open Road for arranging and Classic Car Hire North for providing the car.


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